Exceptionally Wet Winter Revives California’s Gold Rush

Tate Sundberg |
Pan for gold rush creeks
Panning for gold in California. / SF Chronicle

Panning for gold in California is peaking again, according to a video posted to Facebook from DW News. Due to a winter season that delivered record-breaking snowfall, increased snowmelt has loosened and deposited the shiny mineral across California creeks in amounts far beyond years prior.

This same series of natural events is what caused the initial gold rush in the 1800s; wet winters caused flooding over millions of years in the Sierras, and the flood years washed away sediment from the river basins and loosened hidden pockets of gold, which were dispersed among the rivers. Word broke out when people cracked this code, and thousands of settlers migrated to California to pan for gold.

Little of the gold sought after from the 1800s remains, and there will likely need to be another 20 million years of flooding and receding before the levels of gold seen then return. But, with every flood year, more gold is exposed than normal, and this season is a reminder of what nature can do. 

This year, California residents have been flocking to the rivers equipped with snorkels, goggles, suction pumps, sunhats, and their gold pans to find the precious mineral. One man in the video above found around “$50 [worth of gold] in five minutes.” But of course, it is always a gamble, he reiterates — sometimes he will hit a pocket bigger, and other times he will be straight out of luck. 

With the current price of gold teetering on the 5-year maximum, the recent deposits come at an excellent time for anyone looking to get out and make a quick buck — or for families and friends looking for something to do on a casual afternoon.

man pans for gold california
Panning for gold. / Credit: Wikipedia

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